The bottom line is clear: Our vital interests in Afghanistan are limited and military victory is not the key to achieving them. On the contrary, waging a lengthy counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan may well do more to aid Taliban recruiting than to dismantle the group, help spread conflict further into Pakistan, unify radical groups that might otherwise be quarreling amongst themselves, threaten the long-term health of the U.S. economy, and prevent the U.S. government from turning its full attention to other pressing problems. -- Afghanistan Study Group

Sunday, June 13, 2010

News of the Day for Sunday, June 13, 2010

Iraq's interior ministry said five loud explosions have rocked Baghdad, killing at least two people and wounding six others. (AFP/Sabah Arar) Note: the casualty toll has risen sharply since this caption was written.

Reported Security Incidents


Reported casualty toll now stands at 12 killed, 25 injured in a series of explosions targeting the Central Bank of Iraq. This story has been developing as I wrote today's post and the casualty toll has been steadily rising. This is the latest report as of about 9:00 EDT.

Update: The facts of this incident have become more clear. Casualty toll is now 15 dead and 45 injured. There may have been only one bomb, but some accounts say there were three. The explosion was followed by a gun battle; apparently this was an attempt to rob the bank. The plume of smoke (see photo) is from the fuel store for the bank's generator, which caught fire.


Two police injured by roadside bomb.

Police captain injured by a roadside bomb in Zeglawa village, south of the city.


Retired army general shot and injured near his home.

First Deputy Governor of Ninevah Province, Feisal Iliawir, injured by a roadside bomb targeting his convoy. Note that the Deputy Governor routinely travels to work in an armored motorcade.

Karbala (apparently)

U.S. claims U.S.-backed Iraqi forces killed two suspected insurgents "south of Baghdad". However, Iraqi officials dispute the U.S. account and say that U.S. forces, acting alone and without authorization from the Iraqi authorities, killed two civilians. The location is not specified but a Karbala provincial council member is quoted as objecting to the action.

Iraqi security forces reports arrests in various places: Hilla, Diala, Baquba. They describe the arrestees as "terror" suspects. DPA has more details on the operation in Baquba, where the city was said to be sealed off by "10,000" police officers before a series of raids were launched resulting in the arrest of 16 people. Make of it what you will.

Other News of the Day

Dispute emerges over the associations of a Jordanian killed by U.S. forces in Mosul on June 5. Omar Maqdessi, the son of Issam Abu Mohammed al-Maqdessi, said to be a mentor of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, is said to have turned away from Zarqawi. Omar had been arrested and released in Iraq in 2006.

Nuri al-Maliki and Ayad Allawi meet for the first time since the election. No evident breakthrough results. Although Ahlul Bayt News Agency reports that they agreed on the "need to form a national partnership government," according to Maliki, this seems to be mere rhetoric. Al Bawaba puts a far more pessimistic spin on the meeting: "Allawi's Iraqiya "might have no postelection role," Hassan al-Alawi, a senior Iraqiya leader, said in an interview with The Associated Press. "They are walking a dangerous route." He added: "Allawi will never be the PM."

Parliament will convene tomorrow. This is expected to be a largely ceremonial session with the formation of a new government still a long way off.

Steven Lee Myers of the NYT reports on the ongoing destruction of the Shatt al Arab (known to Iranians as the Haven River, btw). (We posted other reports about this last week.) Excerpt:

Withered by decades of dictatorial mismanagement and then neglect, by drought and the thirst of Iraq’s neighbors, the river formed by the convergence of the Tigris and the Euphrates no longer has the strength the keep the sea at bay.

The salt water of the gulf now pushes up the Faw peninsula. Last year, for the first time in memory, it extended beyond Basra, Iraq’s biggest port city, and even Qurna, where the two rivers meet. It has ravaged fresh-water fisheries, livestock, crops and groves of date palms that once made the area famous, forcing the migration of tens of thousands of farmers.

Afghanistan Update

British soldier killed in Helmand Saturday afternoon.

Two German soldiers injured by roadside bomb in Kunduz.

Afghan Interior Ministry claims police killed 39 Taliban in Uruzgan on Friday. (Dubious at best -- C

Yet another poisoning of schoolgirls, this time in Balkh province. About 60 required hospitalization although their injuries are said not to be serious. This is at least the third such incident this week.

Karzai travels to Kandahar to drum up support for the long-promised military offensive. He says that "The operation would be carried out by Afghan forces assisted by international troops and without using tanks or air forces." If ISAF actually follows this directive, we will see a very different kind of battle. I will be very surprised if it happens. -- C

A report issued by the London School of Economics claims Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence agency arms, trains and funds the Afghan Taliban, and is even represented on its ruling council. Excerpt:

Many analysts have suggested in the past that current or former ISI officials have maintained links to the Taliban. But the report offers one of the strongest cases that assistance to the group is official ISI policy, and even extends to the highest levels of the Pakistani government.

"Pakistan's apparent involvement in a double-game of this scale could have major geopolitical implications and could even provoke U.S. countermeasures," said the report, which was written by Matt Waldman, a fellow at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Poland's Prime Minister and Acting President want NATO out of Afghanistan.

Quote of the Day

The fall of Saddam Hussein after the American invasion in 2003 did not end the dictatorial abuse of Iraq’s water resources, and its grave consequences for the Shatt Al Arab exposes that for all the world to see.

NYT's Steven Lee Myers